Our 2022 World Champion Of Shame Attacking!

We human beings are at once the most empathic and the most hostile creatures on Earth. This mixture of sociability and antisociality enabled us to band together and dominate the planet. Violent impulses alone would have made it impossible for us to live in close-knit families and clans without killing each other off. Nature’s answer to the human dilemma has been the development of guilt and shame, emotions that inhibit aggression within family units kin relationships. Guilt and shame, then, are forms of positive punishment. As such they have been utilized by powers that be as a form of social control. I was raised Catholic, I understand this dynamic!
Understanding guilt and shame in this biopsychosocial way helps us understand how nature has selected for these built-in emotional restraints on hostility and aggression. Helps us understand how shame, sometimes referred to as a legacy emotion, is has become hardwired into the structure and function of the human brain and body. Shame often produces blushing, a response that occurs in every human being, across races and cultures. Across all cultures shame also produces other physical responses, like shrinking posture, increased heart rate and evasive eye movements.
While shame seems successfully to pump the brakes on our species’ displays of hostility and aggression, it is not a terribly adaptive mechanism. It leads us to collapse inward, disconnecting from each other and from our environment. Hence CBT has developed the shame attack, a way of pushing back against the hegemony of this emotion. Shame attacking desensitizes us to the perceived judgements of others and teaches us to respond to awkward social and interpersonal moments with more of our cognitive and behavioral resources intact.

All Things CBT sponsors an annual world championships of shame attacking, which this year received entries from around the globe. In this interview, Davis California psychiatrist Leigh Harrington and I speak with psychiatrist Jacob Towery, an Adjunct Clinical Faculty member at Stanford University’s School of Medicine and the shameless winner of our 2022 contest.

About Daniel Mintie

Daniel Mintie is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's School Of Medicine. He has a private practice in Taos New Mexico, USA and teaches cognitive-behavioral therapy at universities and training centers worldwide.

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